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Meniscus is cartilage in the knee joint. It helps to stabilize and cushion the knee. A meniscectomy is the removal of all or part of the cartilage.
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What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
- Medical history
- Physical exam
- X-ray of both knees
- MRI scan —a test that uses a strong magnetic field to make pictures of the inside of the knee
- Blood test
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
- Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs
- Blood thinners, such as clopidogrel (Plavix) or warfarin (Coumadin)
Do not eat or drink anything for 8-12 hours before surgery, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Local, spinal, or general anesthesia will be used depending on the procedure. With local anesthesia, the area around the surgery will be numbed. With spinal anesthesia, your lower body will be numbed from an injection into the back. With general anesthesia, you will be asleep.
Description of the Procedure
There are two methods for meniscectomy:
- Arthrotomy—an open technique that is rarely used today
Small incisions are made around the knee. Special tools are inserted into the knee joint. A tiny camera will provide a view of the inside of the knee. The damaged meniscus is either repaired or removed. The doctor will remove as little cartilage as possible. A drain may be inserted to drain away fluid. The incisions are closed with stitches. The stitches are usually removed in the doctor's office one week later.
A larger incision is made over the knee joint. The meniscus is then either repaired or removed. The incision is closed with stitches. It usually results in a longer recovery period. This process is usually done when there are problems with the knee that make the arthroscopic procedure difficult.
How Long Will It Take?
The procedure usually takes less than one hour.
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. Medicine will help you manage pain during recovery.
- Use compression and ice for 48-72 hours after surgery. This will help reduce swelling.
- Move and elevate legs often while resting in bed.
- Use crutches for the first few days following surgery. Only place partial weight on the involved leg.
- Do exercises as recommended. You may start with simple thigh muscle exercises the day after surgery. More strengthening exercises will be added later.
- Take pain medicines and antibiotics (to prevent infection) as recommended by your doctor.
- Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions .
If the meniscus was removed, it generally takes 3-6 weeks to return to full activities.
If the cartilage was repaired, it can take up to four months for full recovery. The goal of the first week is to reduce pain and swelling. After this, the goals are to increase range of motion and weight-bearing. Physical therapy is often done several times a week for four weeks or more. At 6-8 weeks, low impact activities can often be added. This will help to prepare you to return to sports or activities. Running, cutting, and rotation are avoided for at least 16 weeks.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
National Library of Medicine
Canada Health Network
Physical Therapy Canada
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
Lento P, Akuthota V. Frontera:
Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 1st ed. Philadelphia; Hanley and Belfus; 2002.